Rúben Blades at La Zona Rosa, August 29

Live music reviews.

Rúben Blades

La Zona Rosa, August 29

Wearing his signature short-brimmed black felt hat, black T-shirt, and black slacks, Rúben Blades looked trim and relaxed as he surveyed the sold-out house at La Zona Rosa. Ready to see what Austin was all about, he greeted the crowd by commenting on how Austin was an educated place and that he was happy to be around a lot of educated people. It was a casual comment, but also a reflection of the intelligence of this multi-talented singer/writer/activist who uses his creative talents to get his social and political agenda out. Blades remained talkative in Spanish and English all evening, introducing each song with an explanation. A natural entertainer, Blades danced, shook his yellow maracas, and punctuated many of the songs he sang ("Pedro Navaja," "Muévete," "Decisiones y Sicarios") with humorous facial expressions and hand mannerisms. In return, Blades couldn't have asked for a better audience. They sang and danced right along with him on almost every song. Opener Editus, a classically trained Costa Rican trio who has been performing with Blades recently, including on his latest CD Tiempos, backed the headliner to good effect, violinist Ricardo Ramirez holding the spotlight with his instrumental virtuosity. Performing more than two hours, Blades and company covered work from the salseros' early years with Willie Colon to his most recent work. Keeping the energy level in the red, energizing an audience in which many had been dancing for the better part of three hours, Blades was at one point rewarded by a hail of Panamanian flags, ticket stubs, and CD covers, providing the evening's most touching moment when the singer clutched a small Panamanian flag that had been passed to him and sang a song he had composed in honor of his native country. All his dreams for Panama were evident in his face as he held the flag with one hand, placed the other over his heart, and with eyes shut, sang of hope for its future. At show's end, he sent accordion master Flaco Jimenez un gran saludo, saying he hoped they would be able to collaborate on his next album focusing on Mexican music. What an idea! We certainly look forward to that performance.

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